With December’s arrival comes the season of illumination in Japan. Trees are decorated and most public places boast remarkable displays of light. However, an event in Kobe is not like the others when it comes to the motivations behind it.
The Kobe Luminarie first started in December 1995 as a memorial event for the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake that occurred on Jan. 17 of that same year. The lights were donated by the Italian government, along with an installation project by artistic producer and director Valerio Festi. The word “luminarie” itself is the plural of the Italian word “luminaria,” which means “light decoration.” The success of the first event, led Kobe Luminaire to become an annual festival as a reminder and symbol of the city’s recovery from the disaster. Between 3 million and 5 million visitors come from various parts of Japan to see the sculptured lights, which are arranged differently each year.
Since viewing the lights is free of charge, during the event there will be donation boxes available. Any donations will be used to hold the following year’s event. There will also be plenty of stalls selling food and drink for winter revellers.
The Kobe Luminarie 2011 takes place Dec. 1-12 along the street leading from Motomachi Station to Sannomiya Station in Kobe. The lights will be turned on from 6 p.m. till 9 p.m. on Monday to Thursday, 6 p.m. till 10 p.m. on Friday, 5 p.m. till 10 p.m. on Saturday, and 5 p.m. till 9:30 p.m. on Sunday. For more information (in Japanese), visit www.kobe-luminarie.jp.